PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Resigning or Re-Signing?”
By: Ron Woodrum
In 1937 Picasso was in Paris working on a major art project. Back in his home country there was a civil war raging in Spain. The Axis powers of Germany and Italy attacked the little town of Guernica, in the Basque country of Spain. The horror was devastating. Picasso, upon hearing it, traveled to witness the destruction. The result was he then painted what is considered by many, his most famous and important work of art-Guernica-his anti-war mural. The portrait painted a woman trying to escape from the bombs with her dead baby in her arms; A woman holding a torch as she flees, and the torch just illuminates the destruction. Exploding chickens and animals from the market shows that war even affects innocent animals. Most interpret the charging horse and bull, (normally a beloved symbol of Spain), being captured and used against them by Fascism! Picasso remarked that “a work of art must make a man react; agitate the observer to action”. That was his goal with this anti-war mural. After returning to Paris, his masterpiece was displayed in a Museum there. When the Nazis occupied France, Picasso was asked by a German soldier- “are you responsible for creating this?” Picasso is reported to have responded, “No you are!” When we look around us and see the battle that is raging in our culture, and the devil seems to be wreaking havoc on all that we hold precious…we wonder who is to blame. T.S. Eliot, the famous British poet, who became a Christian later in his life, wrote “I do not believe, (I am a Christian myself), that culture could survive the complete disappearance of the Christian faith…if Christianity goes the whole of our culture goes!” He was so prophetic in his words…that is exactly what has happened. We want to blame the devil! We want to blame the world and society. We even question- “Where was God when all of this came over us?” The truth be told we as the Church might just share the blame! Edmund Burke wrote: “When bad men combine, the good must associate (in opposition) else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle”. John Stuart Mill wrote: “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing”. In other words…” for evil to triumph, all they need is for good to do nothing!” That may describe the Church of Jesus Christ in the last few decades! Even though we know who “wins in the end”. The current state of affairs related to the Church is that we are “losing a lot of battles!” Truth be known we have waved the white flag-retreated to behind the four walls of the Church…and T.S. Eliot’s prophecy has become a reality. We don’t like hearing that message. It reminds me of Charlie Brown, in a cartoon strip I read several years ago. The scenario was something like this…” You know what the trouble with you is, Charlie Brown?” asks Lucy. “No, I don’t want to know! Leave me alone!” Charlie Brown walks away with his hands in his pockets. Lucy calls after him: “the whole trouble with you is you won’t listen to what the whole trouble with you is!” Theologian Charles H. Heimsath said, “The chief trouble with the Church is that you and I are in it!” Another imminent theologian Helmut Thielicke, when responding to the retreat and failure of the Church in Europe, (a forerunner to the failure of the Church in America), defended his hope in the Church this way…”If I were not convinced that Christ is risen, and that He lives…I probably could not have drawn any other conclusion except to leave the Church…Only the friends I have in it, those who bravely endure to persevere in a life of devotion and sacrifice, would make it hard for me to leave. And what binds me to them most of all is precisely this, that the suffer because of the Church just as I do!”
It would be easy for us to give up in a spirit of defeat and blame it all on the trend of the last days, while crying out with the Apostle John- “even so come Lord Jesus!” The great Scottish preacher John Robertson of Glasgow had been a Pastor for forty years. But he lost his glow, he felt himself a failure, he decided to quit and resign. He prayed, “Oh God, forty years ago you did commission me, but I have blundered and failed, and I want to resign this morning”. He broke down in tears, and humbled himself before God. He said this is the answer that God gave him. “John Robertson, it is true that I commissioned you forty years ago. It is true that you have blundered and failed, BUT YOU ARE NOT TO RESIGN FROM YOUR COMMISSION. YOU ARE TO RE-SIGN YOUR COMMISSION!” That is the message that God has for us today as His Church. RE-SIGN YOUR COMMISSION! REVIVAL OFFERS US THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO JUST THAT! That does not mean that we re-dedicate ourselves to God in revival, and just separate ourselves more from our decaying society. Salt was used in the first century to slow decay…but it required contact with the decay! Light can only overcome darkness by shining! Revival allows us to regain our “saltiness’ and get back in contact with our world. Light restores the glory of God so that we can be a beacon of brightness to the darkness around us!
F.W. Robertson contrasted Christianity with Judaism. He said that the spirit of Judaism was to separate themselves from the evil around them. Even isolate themselves! They abstained from other foods, other days, other activities, etc. But on the other hand, Christianity permeates evil with good, and aims at overcoming evil with good. We must take seriously the words of Jesus that the “kingdom of heaven is like yeast, taken by the woman and put into three measures of flour until the whole lot had risen” (Luke 13:20-21). Revived Christians, joined together as a renewed Church, can and always has historically, gone back out into their world and permeated it for the cause of Christ! We are commissioned, as Esther, “for a time like this!” The great Lutheran Pastor, Martin Niemoller of Germany was imprisoned by the Nazis. One night he had a dream that he saw Hitler pleading his case before God, excusing himself because he had never heard the Gospel. The Niemoller heard a voice directed toward him: “were you with him a whole hour without telling him of the gospel?” He awoke and remembered that he had indeed been with Hitler for an hour. He had not said a word about Jesus Christ. That realization changed Niemoller. From that moment on every prisoner, every guard, every person he came in contact with for the rest of his life heard the gospel from his re-signed lips! I am “dreaming” that we have such a revival that causes a Church, in danger of “resigning” in these last days, to determination of “re-signing’ for a new commission to do all we can to impact our world while we yet have time! It is not too late! We might realize that we have been part of what is “wrong” with the Church. But after revival we can definitely be what is “right” with the Church. Anybody want to “re-sign?”